Northeast needs different norms for poverty census: Experts

June 23rd, 2011 - 11:50 am ICT by IANS  

Agartala, June 23 (IANS) With India about to embark on a census to determine the number of people living below the poverty line (BPL), a vital input for the success of several welfare schemes, activists and NGOs in the northeast where the census is to roll out say the region needs a different methodology to identify disadvantaged groups.

The parameters of the new census, which will roll out from Tripura June 29, are identifying families that own a vehicle, a concrete house or a fixed phone, or have a member in government service or earning above Rs.10,000 per month.

But NGOs, experts, social activists and state governments have been asking the central government to adopt a different method to classify the poor in the region.

Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust (KGNMT) senior functionary Fulan Bhattacharjee told IANS : “Everybody, including the central government, knows the economic condition of the northeastern region. Most backward tribals constitute 27 percent of the northeast’s total population.”

“If the same methodology applied for the entire country is applied here, it would be most impractical,” said Bhattacharjee.

The KGNMT, a national level NGO, has been working in the entire northeast region for the upliftment of the poor, especially the woman.

According to senior lecturer and coordinator of the Centre for Rural Studies in the Tripura University, Jayanta Choudhury, “Economic capabilities, basic available amenities, nutritional status and actual income of the people of the northeastern region should be considered while conducting the census.”‘

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said the government should shed pre-conceived notions in conducting the census.

“The calculations are based on the formula suggested by the Tendulkar Committee for computing the number of poor, though it was not accepted by most of the Indian states,” he said.

The latest data of the Planning Commission indicates that poverty (in India) has declined to 32 percent in 2009-10 from 37.2 percent five years ago.

The Planning Commission had in December 2005 appointed a four member committee to suggest alternate concepts of poverty and recommend changes in the existing procedures of official estimation of poverty.

The committee was headed by Professor Suresh D. Tendulkar (who passed away Tuesday), then member of the prime minister’s economic advisory council (EAC) and later chairman of the National Statistical Commission.

The committe had submitted its report in November 2009.

The report said 26.75 percent people are living below the poverty line in the northeastern region, whose population in the 2011 census rose to 4.5 crore from 3.8 crore in the 2001 census.

“With the successful implementation of Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC), Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) and Aadhaar scheme (a 12-digit identity number to be issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the planning commission has chosen Tripura to start the socio-economic survey,” Sarkar said.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

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